Cristoforo Buondelmonti (c. 1385-c. 1430), was a Florentine monk and geographer. Born to an aristocratic family, he frequented the circles of humanist scholars of his native city (Niccolò Niccoli, Guarino Veronese). In 1406 Buondelmonti settled in Rhodes and stayed on the island for eight years. He learned Greek, and in the following six years travelled to Istanbul, the Aegean islands and Cyprus. Guided by the maps and texts of Ptolemy, he explored Crete in 1415. Buondelmonti gradually composed the first isolario, that is, a collection of island maps accompanied by historical and geographical texts. Thanks to Buondelmonti's pioneering work, which constituted a model for later isolaria, the Greek islands became known to scholars and geographers.
After his travels, the Florentine monk composed «Liber Insularum Archipelagi», or “Book of Islands” in 1420. The work included 79 maps of islands and important continental locations on the Greek seas. “Descriptio insule Candie» («Description of the island of Crete») was written in 1417. Buondelmonti enriched his work with material from Greek and Latin authors and from oral testimonies. In addition, Buondelmonti's texts include commentaries on insular societies, reflections on Ottoman expansion, judgements on the decline of the Greeks, occurrences and snapshots as well as descriptions of various perils on the sea.
The first version of this widely celebrated work was composed around 1420 and circulated in several variations until the 17th century, always in manuscript. Its first printed version (1824) with the Latin text, commentaries and tables includes only two maps.
A study on Buondelmonti's work was written by Ém. Legrand in the 19th century. Legrand published an anonymous 16th century manuscript, which was in fact the Greek translation of “Liber Insularum Archipelagi”. The manuscript was kept in the Library of Top Kapi Palace in Istanbul, and a copy of it reached Legrand's hands thanks to French archaeologist S. Reinach. The edition by Legrand includes a French translation of the Greek text, the Greek text itself, and illustrations.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou